Sunday, April 18, 2010

From Chunky Candy to My Favorite Movie: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

So the post about Chunky Bars reminded me of the series of Chunky commercials voiced by the great, recently-departed actor, Arnold Stang. That reminded me of Marvin Kaplan whom I was privileged to work with years ago. (Marvin is,fortunately, still with us.) I was thrilled to meet him because among the many films in his remarkable career was my favorite, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

In that film he and Arnold Stang appeared in a scene with one of my favorite comic actors of all time, Phil Silvers. One of his lines in this movie, "What is it, a staring contest?!" was a running joke in my family throughout my childhood.

So I decided to grab this excuse to post a chunk of the movie. I've seen Oscar-winning dramas that didn't capture human nature as perfectly as some of the scenes in this movie do.

But a suggestion: If you've never seen this movie, skip these clips, rent it and watch it on the biggest screen possible. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is such a milestone in the history of widescreen movies that the construction of Hollywood's historic Cinerama Dome theater was scheduled so the film and theater could premiere the same night. (The opening-night photo above is from the L.A. Public Library Archives.)

Straddling the first two clips is, I think, one of the best pieces of comic writing in movies, the "fair share" scene. From the "two-eights/one-quarter" line to the the subtle, hilarious line after "drop dead" it's a work of genius.

Then there is Phil Silvers' priceless first scene with Jonathan Winters, with its great last line. (And pay close attention to Silvers when he first hears about the $350,000). I could have happily kept watching and posting to the end, but I forced myself to stop when Arnold Stang and Marvin Kaplan appear, since they kicked this whole thing off to begin with.

Nearly every comedy legend was in this movie. In these clips alone you get to see, among many others, Spencer Tracy, Jerry Lewis, William Demarest, Andy Devine, and the beginning of the mistreatment of some classic automobiles. You also get the great Terry-Thomas. He has a brilliant speech later in the movie where he bemoans America's matriarchal society and "preoccupation with bosoms"and (perhaps presciently) predicts that "if American women ever stopped wearing brassieres your whole national economy would collapse overnight."

By Request: Vintage Nestle Chunky TV Commercials